By: Tyrus York – Senior Night in Rupp Arena is a special time for Kentucky fans, players, and coaches. On Tuesday, the #25/24 Kentucky Wildcats (22-8, 12-5) bid farewell to seniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, two players that have been main-stays at this program for the last 4-5 years.
The Wildcats welcomed in an underperforming Alabama team (12-18, 6-11) that has struggled mightily this season. Of course the Cats weren’t in much better shape recently coming off 2 straight losses, including a miserable performance at South Carolina.
Kentucky would rebound Tuesday night however and take care of business, defeating the Tide 55-48 in a sloppy battle between two teams that clearly weren’t on top of their game.
The offensive production from Kentucky has been putrid the last several games. Against Alabama, they managed to shoot only 32.7% from the field and only 17.9% from three. Defense kept the Cats in it holding their opponent to a season low 48 points.
Part of the outcome Tuesday was due to Alabama not being very good. The other part was Kentucky’s ability lock down defensively when they had to and get the win.
Julius Randle led Kentucky as the only player to reach double digits in points or rebounds, going for 12 points and 11 rebounds to secure his 17th double-double of the season.
James Young and Dakari Johnson were your second leading scorers with 9 points each. Young’s only make from the field was a 3 pointer with 4:10 to play that put Kentucky up by 6 points. Before that 3, Young was 0-8 from the field with only 1 attempt coming from inside the 3 point line.
It upsets some fans to see Young firing shot attempts at will despite having an off night, but Coach Cal reminded the media after the game that if you don’t take the open shot then you’re not playing. Young is a scorer and even though he had a tough night, he made the most important shot of the game to give Kentucky the victory.
Dakari Johnson continues to improve down low and has slowly become one of the most consistent players we have. Game after game we see Dakari get a little more aggressive in the paint which will prove beneficial as Kentucky closes the season out at #1 Florida on Saturday.
Tuesday was a good win for the Cats who could not afford to drop a 3rd straight game including 2 in a row at home. But the night belonged to Hood and Polson.
Both seniors received starting nods from Coach Cal and both took advantage early, each hitting a 3 pointer to give Kentucky their first 6 points of the game.
Kentucky locked up the #2 seed in the SEC tournament with the win against Alabama and will open the tournament on Friday March 14th. But first, Kentucky has a date with #1 Florida at noon on Saturday in Gainesville where the Cats can possibly send a message to the nation that this young team is ready to grow up.